Your 20s are truly a special time in your life—you’re embarking on your own exciting adventures, meeting new people, and learning a ton of new things about yourself.
Now that we hooked your attention with all that good stuff, allow us to drop some truth: your skin is never going to look as good as it does right now.
As alarming as that sounds, it’s an unfortunate fact: around 25 your body’s natural collagen and elastin production dips off significantly, which means you suddenly have a whole new set of skin woes to worry about. (This can be especially discouraging if you’re still dealing with lingering acne from your teenage years.) You’ll thank yourself in the long run if you implement the following skincare commandments ASAP.
1. Never skip sun protection
Whether you live in Seattle or Los Angeles, protecting your skin from UVA/UVB rays on a daily basis is non-negotiable; this is the #1 commandment in skincare across all ages, and is especially important in your 20s.
While the primary goal of sun protection isn’t to keep you young forever, 90 percent of premature signs of aging are caused by inadequately protecting your skin from sun exposure. Other unfortunate side effects of sunbathing are the darkening of acne scars, stubborn hyperpigmentation, the depletion of you skin’s ability to stave off breakouts, and the most obvious: skin cancer.
In addition, be mindful of passive sun exposure throughout the day. Wear a light cardigan in the car when driving, a loose-fitting ball cap when walking to the subway to cover your face, and don’t be afraid to look silly carrying a sun umbrella with you to outdoor events—your skin (and immune system) will surely thank you.
2. Start cleansing properly
While removing makeup before bed is absolutely paramount to the health of your skin, it’s unfortunately not enough to swipe a wipe across your face and call it a night. Without a proper double cleanse—that is, using an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser—each night you’re allowing oil, sweat, makeup, SPF, and pollution to burrow deep within pores.
If you’re not susceptible to breakouts, you may not realize the damage that is being done to your skin—but rest assured that if you’re not removing these irritants completely each night, your skin will suffer the consequences over time. Two cleansers every time you wash your face might seem like a pain, but it is well worth the additional step.
3. Stop scrubbing
A shocking amount of products targeted to treat acne-prone, oily, and combination skin still contain harsh physical exfoliants (it’s absolutely wild to think that in 2020 there are new walnut scrubs still making their way into people’s Instagram shelfies). The jagged shapes of these exfoliating particles are most effective in scratching and tearing at the surface of your skin—not clearing away oil and grime.
Rather than pay for a product that causes more harm than good, embrace the use of exfoliating acids and targeted serums in your skincare routine. Acids in skincare help to dissolve the bonds between dead and dry skin cells, and some acids are actually humectants, meaning they help the skin retain vital moisture and combat oiliness.
If you’re struggling with persistent acne in your 20s, incorporate a salicylic acid-based cleanser into your routine every few days and follow up with a niacinamide serum at night. Struggling with a dry and dull complexion? Rather than slough away a layer of dead skin with a damaging scrub, follow up your AHA treatments with a hyaluronic acid serum.
4. Focus on prevention
Your 20s are the perfect time to start focusing on preventative skincare products and techniques because, as with most things, prevention is a lot easier than recovery! The best way to ensure your complexion remains glowing for decades to come is to focus on a key ingredient and a couple skin saving good practices starting now.
Vitamin A goes by several different names in skincare—such as retinol and retin-A–but no matter what, the formulation of this important youth-preserving key ingredient can come in many forms.
In your 20s, there is no reason to go all out with a prescription strength form of Vitamin A, unless you are still battling heavy breakouts. In that case, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for a full-strength treatment. For the average 20-something, regular and proper use of a retinoid will be more than sufficient.
5. Get your beauty sleep
In addition to daily sun protection and proper cleansing, another good practice to begin in your 20s isn’t just beneficial for your skin. Sleeping on your back rather than on your sides and stomach is better for you skin.
Obviously, the most important aspect of “beauty sleep” is getting a consistent 6-8 hours nightly, but if you absolutely can’t stand sleeping on your back or need to sleep on your sides for health reasons, invest in a silk pillowcase to alleviate irritation and fabric creasing against your skin.
6. Focus on your food
As much as we all hate to admit it, what you put on your skin isn’t nearly as important as what you’re putting in your body on a daily basis. As collagen and elastin production begins to slow in your mid-20s the food (and alcohol) you’re consuming on a regular basis will start to show its effect on your skin, so this is the best time to create well-rounded eating habits.
Healthy fats obtained from nuts, fish, avocados, and olive oil are essential to a healthy complexion, as is drinking plenty of water every day and eating leafy greens. Your 20s are also when doctors recommend the beginning of yearly physicals and blood panels, which is especially helpful in keeping an eye on any vitamin deficiencies and hormonal imbalances. Discuss your potential need for any supplements to compliment your diet with your doctor.
7. Don’t forget about your neck
Forgetting to take care of the delicate skin on your neck is a mistake that we are all guilty of making, so making a point to develop the habit in your 20s is especially helpful in the long run. Your neck is just as susceptible to the damaging effects of sun exposure and inadequate cleansing and moisturizing as the skin on your face, so be sure to include it in your overall care routine.